This was one of my earliest cast studies, completed over 5 days at Sarum Studio. It is a sculpture of Niccolò da Uzzano (1359 - 1431) an Italian politician, the Gonfaloniere of Justice in the government of Florence. The original sculpture, attributed to Donatello, is in the Bargello Museum in Florence. I spent a considerable amount of time pushing the shapes around during the early stages. The cast itself has a rather enigmatic, inscrutable expression - wry and calculating but weary - and difficult to capture.
There were a number of 'happy accidents' behind the success of this drawing. I wasn't fully aware at the time of the importance of edges in creating the illusion of form, but I seem to have controlled them rather well. The drawing also has just enough reflected light to give the subject three dimensionality, without breaking the hierarchy of values.
From 14th October to 25th October Lansdown Gallery, Stroud, Gloucestershire will host a unique exhibition. “Family Perspectives” showcases three generations of artwork from a Cotswold family. This artistic journey begins with Robert Ball, a renowned painter and printmaker from Painswick, who became Principal of Stroud Art College, teaching life drawing, anatomy and painting. The works shown include the extraordinary paintings and etchings produced when he was a teenage art student and traces his artistic development through the exquisite woodcuts produced for Frank Mansell’s “Cotswold Ballads” and paintings of family members to whom he passed on his love of art. The journey continues with works by Robert’s daughter, Rosalind Smith, the wife of the late Robert Smith, a respected Stroud solicitor. She and her siblings were trained at their Father’s knee and the exhibition includes a number of etchings and botanical paintings, inspired by Robert Ball’s own work.
Coming right up to date, the exhibition features new work by Rosalind Smith’s son, Benjamin Smith. Ben trained as a solicitor, temporarily taking over the Lansdown office of Robert Smith & Co following his father’s sudden death in 2012. Beginning his own artistic journey as a student at Marling School and inspired by his forebears, Ben has spent several years studying the techniques of classical drawing and oil painting. Tracing his artistic lineage through his grandfather to the great academies of Europe, Ben draws his own artistic inspiration from artists such as Velazquez, Van Dyck, Rubens, and Sargent. Works on display include beautiful renderings in charcoal from classical sculpture and still life paintings in oils.
“Family Perspectives”is a fascinating insight into the artistic vision of one family, stretching back almost a century. It is open to the public at Lansdown Gallery and runs from 14th October to 25th. Admission is free.
I produced this drawing as a preparatory study for a subsequent still life in oil. I worked fairly quickly and used the drawing to focus on resolving a few specific problems.
My intention was to convey the off-white colour of the larger vase, keying down the local colour in order to allow for a much lighter highlight. I also wanted to include a coloured background and capture the reflection of that in the base of the vase.
The little Chinese urn was an afterthought intended to add interest. The drawing provided a useful means of studying how best to render the pattern and the edge variation in its cast shadow.
I've had several attempts at this cast over the last couple of years in both charcoal and oil. It's a particularly tricky one, mainly because of the hair. This version is painted in oil and was completed in early 2014.
The underlying drawing was fairly successful but the overall effect is a little too monochromatic, which gives a rather bleached-out look (although this photograph seems to have exacerbated it). More sensitive handling of the halftones would have been a good thing.
Predictably, the hair was a problem again. For one thing the hair on the cast itself is highly conceptualised and doesn't remotely resemble real hair. It's more like a jumble of pasta or something. The trick, I think, is basically to paint the shadows, rather than to paint the hair as such - but even then it's difficult to give it the same sculptural quality. With so much 'going on', visually, it's also incredibly hard to see individual shapes from a distance.
The rest of the cast was fairly plain sailing. The face is relatively simple since, being highly idealised, there isn't a lot of character to grapple with. The base was very simple, as was the phrygian cap. The only other thing I might do differently if I tackle this cast again, is to be a little more sensitive with the handling of the background, which could do with a little more variation and being somewhat lighter in value overall.
I have recently completed this copy from Charles Bargue's Cours de Dessin. I've attempted a few copies from the book before but wasn't really sure of the correct method in producing them. This is the best I've done so far. I'm planning to ramp things up for the next one by copying the insanely complicated 'Belvedere Torso'.
Published in the 1860s, the Cours de Dessin was copied by art students worldwide before they attempted to draw from the live model. Following its republication in 2003 it is now being used by art students in the academic tradition who focus mainly on the first section, which consists of lithographs by Bargue after casts of sculptures, mostly antique examples that present the structure of the human body.
I'm fairly pleased with this drawing, although I still have a way to go in terms of getting the finish of the drawing as clean and crisp as the original. Initially I didn't really understand the point of doing the Bargue drawings, but having done several I'm beginning to 'get' the lessons they can teach, in terms of separation of light and shade and techniques of measuring and rendering. I doubt whether I'll devote too much time to the Bargue drawings from now on, but it's been useful to try my hand, and I believe I'll have to do a couple when I start at LARA in a month's time, so good practice.
Ben Laughton Smith
Aspiring artist, training in the classical tradition.